The University of Lethbridge community is preparing to commemorate the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30. As part of the programming, the University has partnered with the City of Lethbridge and is unveiling a t-shirt designed by a Blackfoot art studio student.

The national day of observance is on the same day as orange shirt day, an event that grew from Phyllis Webstad and her story of having her orange shirt taken from her at the age of six when she arrived at St. Joseph Mission residential school. Her story created an opportunity for discussion on the aspects and experiences of the residential school legacy.

Join us in wearing your t-shirt to show your support for survivors and their families on Sept. 30. T-shirts will be available for purchase at the uLethbridge Bookstore starting Sept. 14 for $15.99. A portion of the proceeds will go to Indigenous student initiatives at uLethbridge.

The t-shirt logo was designed by Chataya Holy Singer, a Bachelor of Fine Arts student at the U of L, majoring in the Art Studio program. An interdisciplinary Blackfoot artist, Holy Singer has rooted her work in the Niitsitapiisini— the Blackfoot way of life.

The design features First Nation, Métis and Inuit symbolism and can be interpreted in various ways with each symbol conveying its own message. Holy Singer says that the overall significance of the design weaves the educational journey for Blackfoot students  and resiliency through the past, present and future.

“Education is our new buffalo – our new resource for survival,” says Holy Singer. “We can learn from our past, to understand our present in order to guide the future as we continue to dismantle previous teachings that were put in place to remove our identity.”

“With our education, we can continue to remove these teachings by replacing them with the knowledge inherently passed down from our ancestors and implementing them into our current systems.”

For Holy Singer, the invitation to create uLethbridge’s orange shirt day design was special and personal. She previously designed the orange shirts for the City of Lethbridge and the Reconciliation Lethbridge Advisory Committee.

Chataya Holy Singer, a Bachelor of Fine Arts student at the U of L, majoring in the Art Studio program. Holy Singer's art is rooted in Niitsitapiisini— the Blackfoot way of life.

“I knew that I was going to come up with a design that contributes to the perspective of what it means to be an Indigenous student in post-secondary. I personally know the impacts that residential schools have within my own family and even myself.”

Many Indigenous communities have spent the summer in mournful reflection, as unmarked graves are discovered at former Indian residential school sites.

“For me, the unmarked grave discoveries brought up memories of what my mom had told me about her experiences in residential schools. These recoveries triggered a lot of sadness and anger that I felt for not only my late mother, but for our people who had suffered the worst from this act of genocide.”

“These children were our relatives. They were our ancestors whose stories were never told and are now being let free where they can finally come home.”

uLethbridge is planning a number of events during the week of Sept. 27 to allow members of our campus community time and space to reflect on the multigenerational impacts of residential schools. Virtual and in-person event information will be shared in the coming days.

The City of Lethbridge, Reconciliation Lethbridge and community partners are also planning a series of educational and awareness raising events across the community, over the month of September. Working in partnership with community organizations and groups is one way Lethbridge shines brighter together. For more information on City of Lethbridge Reconciliation events, see www.lethbridge.ca/indigenousrelations.

The University of Lethbridge will host a week of Truth and Reconciliation programming beginning Sept. 27, 2021. Watch the U of L’s social channels for more information on University events and programming.